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Dr. Lewis Final Newsletter

 

What a wonderful journey it has been.


This newsletter will be my last opportunity as Superintendent of Schools to collectively address our NOLA Public Schools family: the educators, school communities, colleagues, advocates, elected officials, parents, students, friends, and all stakeholders who have come together these past seven years to build a strong, caring public education system that cares for every child, every day.


You have all done tremendous work, put in countless hours, and collaborated in amazing ways to make NOLA Public Schools what it is today: a vibrant, innovative public education system unlike anything this nation has ever seen.


A look back reveals just how far we have come. When I took this position in March 2015, we were divided. Debate raged around how to manage our public schools, with some under the state's Recovery School District and some under the Orleans Parish School Board. After so many late nights, long phone calls, and impassioned meetings, we forged an actionable plan that united our entire community of schools under local control, where it belongs and where it can thrive.


At the District, my administration and the elected School Board worked hand in hand to establish frameworks that now hold schools to high standards and erect the scaffolding around which quality education opportunities for students can improve and grow.


We learned what worked along the way. Adhering to our collective vision to replicate success, we have seen high quality school management organizations grow – Hynes, KIPP, and Inspire come immediately to mind – while simultaneously refusing to let students languish in failing schools.


We also paid close attention to the changing times; watching and partaking in the progress borne from the tragedies of recent years. The killing of George Floyd two years ago sparked an outrage over racial inequity that had always simmered just below the surface of our country's collective culture. Rather than pass up the opportunity for change, NOLA-PS seized the moment to correct some of the mistakes of our painful past.


We will soon have 21 school buildings with new names that honor inspirational figures of New Orleans history replacing the names of individuals who supported oppression, slavery, and segregation. And I am most proud of the work around equity that we launched in the District to ensure all voices among our educators are heard and validated.


In essence, where I leave NOLA Public Schools is affirmation of what I set out to do 30 years ago as a high school graduate. I set my sights on dedicating my life to the education of children, to show them their talents and worth, and to guide their growth so that we all can enjoy a better world. It was not an easy road. It took me from math teacher in St. Bernard to founding principal at Algiers Technology Academy to East Feliciana Parish, where I began my tenure as a superintendent. Throughout my journey, I never lost sight of how improbable it was to be a young black man, raised by a strong but single mother and grandparents, to rise through the ranks and become a leader in education in a state where racial inequity is still a palpable part of everyday life.


Please click this link to see: Dr. Lewis' Thank You Video


I am proud of what I accomplished, but I am even more proud of the students I have watched succeed every year, day in and day out. Nothing has brought me greater joy than to gaze across the colorful seas of tassels and mortarboards that signify another class of graduating seniors. I tried to attend as many graduations as I could throughout my time as superintendent because the sight of each one of them – each student, in fact – returned me to the reason of why I am here and why I do what I do.


It has been the joy of my life to serve every student, every day and this journey is one that I will keep and cherish with me for the rest of my life.


God bless you all.


In service,

Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr. 


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